What business should you start?

There are many opportunities for the solopreneur, from freelancing to ecommerce to writing. If your focus is to do it the frugal way by bootstrapping your business with no outside funds, then you have a lot of options available to you if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

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Here are just a few possibilities to think about. But the final decision is yours alone: what do you enjoy doing? what specific skills or experience do you have?

Freelancing

Freelancing is a great option if you want the flexibility of working from anywhere, but like to be part of a virtual team or do work for other people. Specialties include graphic design, coding, web design, social media management, writing or editing. A good place to start is to take a look at a freelancing site such as Upwork to see what types of projects are available.

Selling on Amazon, eBay, etc

It is easy to set up a seller account on sites such as Amazon and eBay and list a few things for sale. All you need is a Paypal account and/or credit card to get paid. However, the challenge is in finding the right items to sell at the right price, taking great pictures, writing excellent descriptions, and getting traffic to your items.

Your Own eCommerce Store

Whether you sell your own products that you make, or resell items at a profit, you can quickly set up your own website to sell from using PayPal or Stripe. The biggest challenge will be to get visitor traffic to your store (assume conversion rates of only a few percent, so you need at least 100 visitors daily to make sales every day). This is where writing comes in (see below): even if your website is sales-focused, you need to be constantly adding new content via a blog or articles that will bring in search engine traffic.

Selling Digital Products

There are many things you can create and then sell that don’t involve having to send a package in the mail: create your own app or software, write an ebook, sell your photography or web templates – the list goes on.

Blogging or Writing Online

If you enjoy writing, then setting up a blog or informational website might be a good option for you. You need to make sure you’re adding new top-quality content regularly (at least weekly), posting it to social media, and participating in other online communities where your readers might hang out.

Where most bloggers and website owners fail is being able to bring in a large enough volume of visitor traffic to make any monetization option successful. Whether you sell your own informational products (eg, ebooks), link to affiliate products (eg, Amazon) or use PPC ads such as Google AdSense, you need a lot of traffic to earn a living from this option.

I highly recommend the SBI (Solo Build It!) platform to help you build an online business with traffic, and not just a blog which no one reads. I have a few SBI websites and I’m very happy with all the tools they provide – those sites get a lot more traffic than others I have hosted elsewhere!  You can check out SBI here.

My Path to Solopreneurship

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My path to solopreneurship was driven by a combination of necessity and a desire for self-fulfillment. I’d had a successful career in tech marketing strategy, working at companies like Intel and Gartner Group. But I was becoming tired of the cubicle 9-5 being constantly surrounded by people (I’m a natural introvert), and as the mother of a young son I wanted to spend more time at home with him. But could I afford to do so?

The realization came when I sat down one day to see how much money I was really spending on working for someone else:  commute costs into the city every day, coffee and lunch, professional clothing, school before/after care costs, babysitting costs, and all the extra expenses we tend to incur for the sake of convenience when there isn’t enough time to do it all:  takeout food, housecleaning services, dog walkers, salon services, etc.  Despite a six-figure salary, the percentage going to all these extra expenses was still astounding. Clearly, I couldn’t afford NOT to work from home.

That was five years ago.

I’d love to say it was easy, and I quickly reached the same income as my 9-5. In truth, it was a lot harder than I’d expected, but more satisfying than I’d anticipated as well. I think the biggest challenge was knowing where to focus my time and energy for the maximum results, and not getting distracted by the next new shiny thing. When you’re working for yourself, new ideas and opportunities come up all the time, and it’s tempting to go after them. But each new project takes more time to mature than you realize. Focus is the friend of the first-time solopreneur!

In my next posts, I’ll go into more detail on ways to develop focus and scale as a solopreneur, what worked for me, and what is still work in progress, so stay tuned!